Is Microwave Popcorn Bad For Your Health?

List: Posted: 09/21/11

Microwave popcorn has been associated with some health conditions.  The popcorn itself, however, is not the culprit.  The culprit is a chemical that is used to provide the butter flavor used on many microwave popcorns and at the movie theater booths that sell popcorn.  This chemical is called diacetyl.

The problems with diacetyl were not revealed by popcorn eaters, but by the workers in the factory.  A condition called “popcorn workers lung” is associated with the chemical and has led many manufacturers to get rid of the product in their popcorn.  The condition suffered by affected popcorn workers is sometimes fatal.  It presents problems with exhaling, somewhat like emphysema, and is a degenerative condition.

If you’re worried that your snack might contain this chemical, you can find plenty of brands that advertise that they’re diacetyl free.  This chemical has been widely dropped by the confection industry, but some brands continue to add it to their products.

 

At present, there have been tens of millions of dollars paid out to popcorn workers who came down with this condition.  The cases where consumers have been affected involve inhaling the diacetyl fumes from the popcorn when it’s taken out of the microwave. 

If you’re worried about the health risks of this chemical, you may want to consider making popcorn the old-fashioned way on the stove-top and using real butter to get the flavor you’re after.  Alternately, look for microwaveable brands with no diacetyl.

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